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October 23rd, 2014

Dangerous Chemicals Found in Popular Halloween Costumes

Groovy Green Livin Halloween Costumes with Toxic Chemicals

This is a press release by Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action. I’m quoted in here as a concerned parent, wondering why we keep finding toxic chemicals in products marketed to our children. 

A study released today by the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action has found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and party supplies. The nonprofit Ecology Center tested 106 types of Halloween gear—purchased at national retailers such as CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens—for substances linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  Advocates and parents in Massachusetts expressed outrage and dismay about the findings and called for legislators and retailers to act to ensure that consumer products are made safely.

“We found that seasonal products, like thousands of other products we have tested, are full of dangerous chemicals,” said Jeff Gearhart, HealthyStuff.org research director.  “Poorly regulated toxic chemicals consistently show up in seasonal products. Hazardous chemicals in consumer products pose unnecessary and avoidable health hazards to children, consumers, communities, workers and our environment.”

“It is beyond scary that chemicals that have been known or suspected to be hazardous for many years are still turning up in products that are designed for and marketed to children,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action. “And it’s outrageous that the government has done almost nothing to protect the health of everyday people from these hazards.”

Clean Water Action and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow coalition are working to pass state and federal legislation to require consumer products to be made with the safest available alternatives. The groups are also collaborators in the Mind-the-Store campaign which is calling on the nation’s largest 10 retailers to end the use of 100+ hazardous chemicals.

HealthyStuff.org tested Halloween products for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (vinyl/PVC plastic), phthalates, arsenic, and tin (organotins).

Groovy Green Livin Halloween Toxic ChemicalsSome products contained multiple chemical hazards, including a Toddler Batman Costume whose belt contained 29% regulated phthalates, 340ppm tin, and lead in the lining of the mask at 120 ppm. Overall, 39% of the products contained tin at levels suggesting organotin stabilizers, which are endocrine disruptors and can damage the developing brain and immune system.

Saunders noted that Toddler Batman Costume is currently sold out at all Wal-mart stores in a 50 mile radius of Boston and on Wal-Mart’s website, suggesting that this highly toxic product is extremely popular among unsuspecting parents and children.

Parents in the Boston reacted to the news with outrage and dismay.

“It’s shocking to me that these toxic costumes and toys are sold completely legally, and that the government is doing nothing about it,” said Quanda Burrell, a South End mother of two. “My children love Halloween, my 9 year old will even wear her costume to bed, but I never knew that I could be harming my kids.”

“I put lots of time and effort into finding safe products for my children and giving advice to other parents, and in many cases even I can’t tell which costumes are safe and which aren’t,” said Lori Alper, mother of 3 from Bedford, and author of the blog Groovy Green Livin’. “We can’t keep leaving parents alone with this struggle, it’s time for state and federal legislators and retailers to step in.”

Upon hearing about the report, Michelle Gottlieb of Marblehead immediately worried about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mikey costume that she just bought for her youngest son, Asher, “If it turns out to be toxic, then I’m going to be extremely upset, because there is no way that I could have known from looking at the packaging and he will be heartbroken if I have to tell him he can’t wear it.” Fortunately for Asher’s Mikey dreams but unfortunately for Michelle’s peace of mind, the costume was not included in the study.

The results of this study are available on the easy-to-use consumer website – www.HealthyStuff.org and build on recent HealthyStuff studies on back-to-school products, summer seasonal & beach products and university-themed products.  The majority of these seasonal or specialty products routinely contain one or more toxic chemicals. Due to the fact that many consumer products are largely unregulated, the items tested sometimes have levels of toxic chemicals that exceed the regulated levels set for children’s products and toys.

In addition to finding many products with chemical hazards, HealthyStuff.org test data shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  For example, the results show shifts in some products away from hazardous phthalate plasticizers to less hazardous non-phthalate plasticizers.  The represents a market shift in the face of growing consumer and regulatory pressure.

SEE THE RESULTS HERE

It’s time to regulate consumer products so we don’t have to worry about this. Don’t you agree?!

photo credit: CaseyLessard via photopin cc

October 14th, 2014

Known Cancer Causing Chemical Found in Always Pads

 

Groovy Green Livin cancer causing chemicals in Always Pads

It’s enough. I don’t know about you, but  I’m getting tired of hearing that there are cancer causing chemicals in products that go in and/or on our bodies.

This time we’re talking menstrual pads. Not a comfortable subject for some, but this is something we need to talk about. It’s time to put an end to toxic chemicals showing up in these products that come in direct contact with our bodies.

Groovy Green Livin Always Cancer causing chemical

Cancer causing chemicals found in Always pads

Our friends at Women’s Voices for the Earth just discovered that Always pads release styrene, a known cancer causing chemical, along with chloroform, acetone, chloromethane, and other toxic chemicals listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the State of California Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, and reproductive and developmental toxins. 

Both scented and unscented Always Ultra Thin pads were tested, as well as scented and unscented Always Infinity.

None of these chemicals—and no ingredients whatsoever—are listed on the Always label.

The worst part? These secret toxic chemicals are coming into contact with some of the most sensitive and absorptive skin on our bodies!

Toxic chemicals don’t belong in feminine care products. Period.

What you can do

Always shareholders are meeting in Cincinnati TODAY to talk about what’s important to the company, and they need to hear from you!

Please take a moment to call Always and tell them to list ingredients so that we have the information we need to protect our health.

Always Customer Service number: 1 (800) 888-3115

Sample script:

Hello. I just saw test results from Women’s Voices for the Earth that show chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and allergies in Always pads – and no ingredients are listed on the label. We have a right to know what we’re using on our bodies. Please list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals.

Take action

Send an email HERE telling Always and Tampax to list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals!

Today Women’s Voices for the Earth and Naturally Savvy will be delivering over  21,000 signatures to the makers of Always from women demanding to know what’s in pads!

Did this info surprise you? How are you planning to take action? 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: Timothy Valentine via photopin cc

 

July 7th, 2014

Don’t Drink From a Garden Hose and Other Things to Avoid This Summer

Groovy Green Livin Don't Drink From a Garden Hose

How many times have you reached for a drink from the garden hose on a hot summer day? Guilty! My kids love it too.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to stop. That garden hose is harboring all sorts of toxic chemicals.

In 2013 HealthyStuff.org tested 21 new garden hoses from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Target and Kmart. They found:

  • One-third of the garden hoses tested contained enough chemicals of concern to be ranked “high concern” including lead.
  • Phthalates ,which are currently banned in children’s products were found in water hoses at high levels.
  • Water samples from several hoses contained numerous chemical hazards, including phthalates, lead and BPA.

Is there a safe garden hose?

Look for a lead-free garden hose with a lead-free label. This will make taking drinks from the garden hose for pets and children much safer and also cut down on the amount of lead landing in your backyard. Here’s an example of a  lead- free garden hose, which is also BPA free and phthalate free (affiliate link).

Make sure to let the garden hose run for a bit  before drinking, even if it’s labeled lead-free.

Don’t use spray sunscreens

While spray sunscreens are convenient (I’m the first to admit that!), the FDA is reviewing their safety. I know how challenging it is to get sunscreen on a toddler. I have vivid memories of  my three boys resisting sunscreen for many years. I wish I could say that it’s gotten better as they’ve gotten a bit older, but it’s still a struggle. What I will tell you is that aerosol spray sunscreens are not the answer.

Many spray sunscreens-especially the aerosol sprays-contain ingredients that don’t belong on your skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is very concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in spray sunscreen. When you spray  sunscreen you are likely to inhale the fumes and this is a  much more direct route of exposure than when you apply the sunscreen directly to your skin. It goes directly into your lungs.

If you just can’t bring yourself to ditch the spray or pump sunscreen make sure you never spray sunscreen around your face or mouth. When applying spray sunscreens on children, pay attention to the wind and spray in a direction that won’t blow into their faces. Lower your inhalation risk by applying it on your hands and then wiping it on your face.

Although the dangers of spray sunscreen are still being investigated, why risk exposing your children to inhalation of harmful chemicals? Switch to a safe, non-toxic sunscreen, or a non-whitening sunscreen and have a fantastic summer!

Have you switched to a lead-free garden hose? On my to-do list! How about non-aerosol sunscreens? Have you found a brand that you can’t live without?

March 12th, 2014

Hey Walgreens, It’s Time to Ditch the Toxic Products

Groovy Green Livin Walgreens

Almost a year ago I went into our local Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from the products they sell.

Asking Walgreens to Mind the Store

My visit to Walgreens was part of a larger movement coordinated by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families called  Mind the Store. Together we were asking the nation’s top 10 retailers to avoid carrying the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer,infertilitylearning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Groovy Green Livin Walgreens

Some of the retailers listened! Recently Target and Walmart announced new chemicals policies. While their policies aren’t enough, they’re a big step in the right direction.

I know I’m not alone when I say that many of us are frustrated that toxic chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects are commonly found in products we buy for our families. Basic products such as toys, soaps, shampoo, and cleaning products. Remember there was even a  cancer causing chemical found in Tide laundry detergent?

How you can help

Walgreens is the nation’s largest drugstore chain, and they have the power — and moral responsibility — to ensure that the products they sell do not contain dangerous chemicals harmful to our health.

Unfortunately, Walgreens has yet to respond to our repeated letters and requests to do something.

Join me along with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to call on Walgreens to Mind the Store and protect our families from unnecessary dangerous chemicals.

Send them a message HERE. I promise it will only take a few seconds.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Walgreens: no more toxic products!

Are you more likely to shop at Target and Walmart since they created new chemical policies?

photo credit: kaihm via photopin cc

February 10th, 2014

Stop Cancer With a Mammogram

Groovy Green Livin Mammogram

Last week I had my annual mammogram.

It’s not a fun day by any stretch of the imagination.

I know that many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Being in New England where the temps are pretty chilly, I was already cold when I arrived for my appointment. I was asked to change into once of those little cotton hospital tops that has about 15 hanging strings that somehow tie together. I didn’t have the patience or the energy so I just left the top wide open. There’s not a modest bone left in my body after birthing children. 

When I was called into the exam room I was shivering. Nerves. Cold.

The lovely woman (she’s always so incredibly pleasant-right?) introduced herself. My chest became play dough as she spent time arranging it perfectly on the machine. She then let me know that I would hear a beep once the x-ray  machine was where it needed to be. If I couldn’t stand the pressure on my chest she assured me that it would be OK to ask her to stop. But then she reminded me that if I made it to the beep the x-rays would probably turn out better. After hearing that, I knew that I had to suck it up and wait for the beep. I was willing to endure the pain if there was a lesser likelihood that I would have to come back for more x-rays.

When that beep finally came “STOP(or @#%^!)” was on the tip of my tongue. It was all I could stand. She asked me to hold my breath while she took the x-ray, but I already was.

She took two x-rays, one on each side, and then I managed to ask  if most people make it to the beep. She laughed and said “No honey, they don’t. ” She then said “Personally, I’ve never made it to the beep.” I didn’t feel like Superwoman. I just wanted to get out of there.

Two more x-rays with the beep and I was sent on my way.

I’ve been to two different types of mammogram centers- those that give you the results that day and those that don’t. This was the latter.

Why I Get a Mammogram

Getting a mammogram is scary stuff. We all know someone who’s had breast cancer. Someone close.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2014 are:

  • About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer

Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 1/3 since 1990 through early detection.

It has saved the lives of many women in my life and for that I’m truly grateful.

That’s why I get a mammogram and you should too.

Beyond the Mammogram 

Breast cancer prevention begins with making educated decisions about what goes in or on our bodies. Our cosmetics, personal care products and food are all places where toxic chemicals can be hiding. Taking the time to read labels and ask questions is so important.  The burden is on us to find safe products. Together we need to help shape public policy so that it focuses on prevention for all.

We assume that chemicals used to make ordinary products are tested for safety — but they are not. Our current laws are outdated and not doing their job. We need our government’s help. It’s time to get tough on toxic chemicals.

There’s a lot that needs to happen before women, men and children no longer have to worry about cancer and other diseases. We’ve seen the power of our collective voices. I have no doubt that together we can make this happen.

Do you have an annual mammogram? Tell me more……

 

photo credit: Eyesplash – feels like spring via photopin cc

November 6th, 2013

Toxic Tampons? Report Exposes Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Feminine Care Products

Groovy Green Livin Tampons

Toxic Chemicals Found in Certain Brands of Tampons, Pads and Other Feminine Care Products

Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) just released a new report which found toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and allergic reactions in certain brands of tampons, pads, douches, wipes, and sprays.

Not good news since these products come in contact with some of the most absorptive tissue on women’s bodies and many of us use them for a few days every month!

“Feminine care products are not just your average cosmetics, because they are used on an exceptionally sensitive and absorbent part of a woman’s body,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s director of science and research and author of the report. “Greater scrutiny, oversight and research are badly needed to assure the safety of these ingredients for women’s health.”

Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products are Unregulated

The FDA does not require feminine-care product manufacturers  to tell you what’s in their products.

The report, Chem Fatale: Potential Health Effects of Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products,  examines unregulated toxic chemicals in feminine care products that may result in serious health problems, like increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive problems, asthma, and allergic reactions. Chemicals of concern commonly used in feminine care products include cancer-causing chemicals, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, and allergens.

Some shocking highlights of the report:

  • While pads and tampons are used almost universally by all women, Black and Latina women use some feminine products like douches, wipes, and sprays in greater numbers than white women, meaning these women of disproportionately impacted by the toxic chemicals in these products.
  • Pads and tampons are regulated as medical devices, which means that companies don’t have to disclose any ingredients in these products.
  • Other feminine care products are regulated as personal care products, which means that companies are legally allowed to keep fragrance ingredients a secret from consumers—even the toxic ones.
  • Test results show dioxins, furans, and pesticide residues in tampons, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.
  • Lots of feminine care products contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, and formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a potent allergen.
  • The FDA considers common chemicals in feminine washes to be safe “for external use only.”  However, it is extremely likely that some internal vaginal exposure will occur from regular use.
  • Anti-itch creams commonly contain chemicals that are either allergens or irritants, and can actually exacerbate the very symptoms that women are attempting to treat.
  • Because of weak regulation companies do not have to prove the chemicals they are using in these products are safe. That means companies are legally allowed to use ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects, and other chronic diseases
  • Check out this video demonstration from our friends at Naturally Savvy showing how when an Always Infinity pad is set on fire it burns rapidly potentially indicating petrochemicals, plastics, and other chemicals, while a Natracare pad hardly burns.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in Tampons and Other Feminine Care Products

  • Avoid Hall of Shame products.
  • Read the labels to avoid chemicals of concern.
  • Look for brands that disclose all ingredients, including what’s in fragrance.
  • Reduce your use of feminine care products. Try using a menstrual cup.
  • Eliminate use of products that may be unnecessary.
  • Choose unscented products where available (particularly tampons and pads).
  • Choose chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton tampons and pads. Choose organic when possible.
  • If you are having allergic symptoms, switch brands! When you do switch – call the company’s 1-800 customer service to tell them why!).
  • Tell the FDA if you’ve had symptoms that may be from a feminine care product. Call 1-800-332-1088  or fill out a consumer reporting form available HERE.

Take Action: Ask Procter & Gamble to Disclose Ingredients

We have a right to know what’s in the products we use in and on our bodies. Feminine care products aren’t things we like to discuss on a regular basis, but we need to talk about this so they get the attention and scrutiny they deserve to assure their safety for women’s health.

Toxic chemicals have no place in feminine care products. Period. And it’s time to do something about it.

Join me in asking Procter & Gamble, makers of Tampax tampons and Always pads, to disclose the ingredients in those products and remove toxic chemicals linked to women’s health problems by signing HERE.

Are you surprised that toxic chemicals were found in some brands of tampons and pads?

 

photo credit: ma neeks via photopin cc

September 16th, 2013

Walmart Takes Steps Towards Safer Products

Groovy Green Livin Walmart

Walmart is listening. The Mind the Store campaign is working. Together we’ve asked the nation’s top 10 retailers to avoid carrying what are being calling the Hazardous 100 + toxic chemicals.

Remember when I went into Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from the products they sell? These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancerinfertilitylearning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Walmart is the world’s biggest multinational retailer, with “superstores” selling everything from clothes and electronics to furniture and groceries and it’s decided to take steps towards selling safer products.

Walmart’s Plan of Action

“Walmart customers expect products that are safe, affordable and sustainable.”

~Walmart Policy on Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables

Walmart is taking consumer pressure seriously and announced that it will try to get their suppliers to disclose and eventually phase out 10 potentially toxic chemicals from personal care products, cosmetics and cleaning products sold in its stores. Walmart has also agreed to work with their suppliers to move towards safer alternatives.

The disclosure practices will begin in 2015 and apply to cleaners, personal care products, cosmetics and baby care.

Also part of the plan-Walmart brand cleaners will no longer contain toxic chemicals outlined by the EPA’s Design for the Environment program.

Good First Step, but a Long Way to Go

While this appears to be a giant leap in the right direction, there are a few pieces of Walmart’s big news that are concerning.

  • Walmart has yet to disclose which chemicals would be phased out. They have confirmed that all 10 chemicals appear on the list of chemicals that Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families published in April as part of its Mind the Store campaign. Why won’t they tell us what the 10 are right now? What’s the secrecy all about? If you’re aiming for full transparency this isn’t a very good way to start.
  • Consumers still need to do their homework before purchasing a product. Walmart’s taking a step towards transparency, but we can’t assume that all of their products will now be safe. Remember-they’re only committing to phase out 10 toxic chemicals while there are over 100 on the list. A product could still contain other toxic chemicals in addition to the 10 secret ingredients that Walmart is planning to phase out. This is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go.

In Walmart’s defense, it described this as just the beginning of action on chemicals rather than the end. I’m generally not a Walmart shopper, but I do know that these changes will ultimately impact the safety of the products I buy. Even though I have concerns, this step by Walmart shouldn’t be taken lightly-it’s a huge undertaking with  half a million products in every store from more than 100,000 suppliers. We know other retailers are watching how this whole thing plays out. Fingers crossed that they will soon follow Walmart’s lead.

Baby steps.

What do you think about Walmart’s announcement to disclose and phase out a few toxic chemicals?

 

photo credit: Walmart Corporate via photopin cc

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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Lori on ABC World News

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